If your spouse or sleepmate has to move to another bedroom to avoid the disturbance of your persistent, loud snoring, that could be a sign that you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), but not necessarily. There are a few more clues to help you figure out if you suffer from OSA.
“Most people who snore don’t have obstructive sleep apnea, but most people who have apnea snore,” says Robert L. Owens, MD, of the Sleep Disorders Research Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
That being said, the three major warning signs of sleep apnea are:
- Loud, persistent snoring
- Pauses in breathing, accompanied with gasping episodes while sleeping
- Excessive sleepiness during what should be vibrant, waking hours
The most significant clue that you might have sleep apnea is if your spouse or partner reports that you wake up during the night to gasp for air, which can indeed happen hundreds of times a night when you suffer from OSA.
Some spouses have used cellphone cameras to record videos of their significant others’ gasping for breath at night in a last-ditch effort to convince their loved one to seek help. Matters needn’t go this far if a trusting partner reports that you have difficulty breathing at night. If they do, you should seek professional help.
This is especially true if you yourself suffer from fatigue and headaches (another sign of troubled sleep) during the day hours, says Lisa Shives, MD, medical director of Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, Ill.
While moderate sleepiness, distinguished by a desire or need to take a small nap during the day, doesn’t necessarily indicate OSA, if you doze off while eating or conversing, this could be a sign of trouble, Dr. Shives says. Sleep experts use the Epsworth Sleepiness Scale to judge if a person might have OSA, and dozing off during meals or conversations is a pretty certain sign.
Another sign of possible OSA is waking up with a dry mouth and gummy front teeth because sleep apnea forces you to breathe through your mouth. A less common symptom is urinating excessively at night because gasping for air puts pressure on the heart, which in turn sometimes disrupts a hormone in the kidneys that causes frequent urination.
At any rate, if you suspect you might be suffering from sleep apnea — or any other sleep disorder or problem — you should seek evaluation and professional help from those in the know, such as the staff at The Snoring Center. Don’t rob your days because your nights are troubled.